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Is my GRE score good enough for my dream schools?


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My GRE scores were 760 Quant, 730 Verbal, and a 5 on the Analytical Writing.

While this may appear sufficient, my dream schools for PS/IR are Yale, MIT, G-town.

My grades were superb ever since returning to school two years ago, but I am worried about the effect of my lackluster academic performance in 1998-1999 in my first two years of college before I left school for a career in medical sales.

Here is my academic record.

1998/1999- 2.8 at a top 40 university

1999/2000 at a Tier 2 university (went there because they specialized in a program I wanted to pursue)

2006-2008 - Returned part time to a Tier 3 school in 2006 taking a course or two per quarter where I received all 4.0's except for one computer science class while receiving all 4.0's at a nearby community college.

2009-2010 - returned full-time to the original top 40 University that I attended twelve years ago. Where, so far, I have a 3.95 GPA for the past year.

In addition, I will not apply to grad school until I have achieved basic fluency in Mandarin (I plan to specialize in Chinese foreign policy) and will have spent one or two years working in China. I have not yet decided if I am pursuing a masters or PhD.

My letters of recommendation, I believe, will be solid, as one of my professors even had me write a letter of rec for one of her TA's. I also believe I can count on writing a solid admissions essay.

The problem is, most of the practice essays I submitted to various GRE scoring services came back with a 6.0 for my AW essays, so I feel that I could have done better on that portion, yet I was 90 points above my target score for the other sections combined.

I will have to spend a solid month doing nothing but studying to be able to replicate my past scores and achieve a 6.0. Considering my dream schools, will one extra point on the AW make a difference?

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Your GRE scores are practically identical to mine (770 v. 760 quant). I too was a little disappointed to get a 5.0 AW, but I did some searching around on forums (such as this one) and I learned that the GRE generally isn't an especially important part of the application, and the AW is even less so. Your GREs are definitely high enough; they are the least of your concern. As far as the rest of your application goes, I really can't give you any advice other than to somehow make sure the schools you're applying to understand your somewhat irregular academic career. I suppose it would be the sort of thing to address in the statement of purpose or "additional information" section of the application.

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Your scores are exactly identical to mine, though I took the test 2 years ago. I'm hoping, like you, that the AW section is not a dealbreaker, as I am also applying at some top-tier schools. My browsing leads to similar conclusions as Rodao has already shared; namely, the AW is perhaps the least important of the 3 sections, particularly if your writing samples are good. I wish I could be speaking from experience, though.

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